Several scientists have explored the health benefits of alcohol. However, one study has revealed that drinking, even at moderate levels, may be detrimental to your health.
More than 100 researchers from institutions across the United States, Europe and Australia recently conducted a study, published in The Lancet, to determine the risk thresholds for alcohol consumption.
To do so, they examined several assessments that explored the drinking habits and health outcomes of nearly 600,000 people from 19 countries. They factored in age, smoking, history of diabetes, level of education and occupation.
After analyzing the data, they found that their results contradicted U.S. government guidelines. While the government defines moderate alcohol consumption as two drinks a day for men (limit of 14 drinks per week) and one for women(limit per week), that may be too much.
They discovered drinking 10 or more drinks a week can lower a person’s life expectancy by one to two years. Having more than 18 a week can decrease it by four to five years.
The team also assessed how much alcohol could increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease. They said heavier drinkers are at higher risk of stroke, heart failure and fatal aortic aneurysm. On the contrary, higher levels of alcohol were also associated with lower heart attack risk as alcohol boosts “good” cholesterol, which can prevent artery blockage.
“Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious – and potentially fatal – cardiovascular diseases,” lead author Angela Wood said in a statement.
Despite the findings, the researchers did note their limitations. The information they evaluated was self-reported, and they did not look at the effect of alcohol consumption over someone’s life course.
They believe their investigations are strong though and hope governments across the globe will adjust drinking guidelines, which vary from country to country. In 2016, the United Kingdom reduced the limits for men to the same level as those for women.
“This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the UK, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the UK,” said Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study. “We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold.”
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